LED lights: The future of indoor growing?

Having a productive greenhouse at home or on a large scale thanks to LED lights could be the future of growing indoor plants in soil or, why not, using hydroponic techniques.

Growing indoors using LEDs is not new, although taking advantage of their full potential to obtain optimal results is a little studied area, which is beginning to be developed with initiatives such as Philips with Green Sense Farms (GSF) on a vertical farm In Chicago. Although the results may be relatively good at the domestic level, oriented towards self-cultivation, they have not yet been fully exploited for a systematic use, that is, on a large scale in vertical urban farms.

Currently, LED lamps with a special spectrum can be purchased for indoor cultivation, applicable both for hydroponics – a technique that uses substrates other than soil – and for traditional cultivation, in which natural light is replaced by lights with a suitable wavelength. for that plant or plants.

The advantage of hydroponics is the saving of space, being able to stack plants, which is advantageous both to apply at home and for mass cultivation, and in the same way, LEDs are cheaper than other lights normally used. Logically, a hydroponic crop can also receive sunlight, but this is not always possible, either due to the lack of natural lighting in a home or, for example, due to the same stacking of plants in crops that occupy large buildings.

In any case, adequate artificial light tries to simulate the correct wavelength so that the plant develops well, in principle without affecting its flavour, since it is acquired mainly through nutrients. Moreover, if the vegetables are grown at home or in urban farms of km 0, they will arrive fresher than others that have been refrigerated for weeks.

LEDs on demand

Interesting is the initiative of Green Sense Farms (GSF), a Chicago company that, with the help of Philips, is successfully experimenting with growing indoors with LEDs inside a gigantic vertical farm in this city. Perhaps, a first example of the trend that this type of lighting could mark worldwide in the production of plants for food or ornamental use.

It is, fundamentally, a project of a vertical farm illuminated with LEDs of the commercial brand whose objective is to illuminate the plants according to their needs. And while LEDs for cultivation are nothing new, the difference is that Philips has been researching the influence of different spectra on plants.

In addition to energy savings, with the consequent lower environmental impact, as cold lights can be brought closer to the plants to achieve better use and regular lighting.

The control of the wavelength allows an application to the letter, that serves to satisfy the needs of each type of vegetable. The different functionalities of these new LEDs facilitate an adaptation of the device that helps to optimize the result, although there is still much to learn in this regard.

For now, Philips’ work has focused on optimizing the LED grow lights for these vertical farms so that, depending on the type of cultivation you want to do, the intensity and wavelength of the light is hit right, while the effects of different spectra are analysed. In the future, research even points to a use of LEDs to fertilize and improve the quality of the soil. Almost science fiction, although the truth is that with hydroponics this is not even necessary.